• Supplied, NSW Parliament ( NSW Parliament)
History was made when the New South Wales Government passed the nation's first Aboriginal languages legislation.
By
Liz Deep-Jones

12 Oct 2017 - 3:25 PM  UPDATED 13 Oct 2017 - 3:01 PM

The languages bill was introduced to the New South Wales Upper House in a historic moment on Wednesday.

The legislation recognises the importance of Aboriginal languages within the state and also seeks to protect them.

In a day of many firsts, a message stick ceremony debuted in front of Parliament House and made its way onto the floor the house itself.

NSW Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Sarah Mitchell, told NITV News the legislation has three parts to it which will help preserve, protect and recover language throughout the state.

"The first part talks about how important Aboriginal languages are in New South Wales, the ownership and control of those languages rests with Aboriginal people," she said.

“The second part is to look at the establishment of an Aboriginal Languages Trust to help guide government on the best way to reawaken and nurture languages.

“The third part involves the preparation of a strategic plan to give government guidance about the best way forward to work with Aboriginal communities to help preserve and reawaken languages across New South Wales,” she said.

The legislation was drafted with consultation and workshops across the state to strengthen over 35 languages and close to 100 dialects.

A far cry from the days when policies were put in place to suppress the voice of the oldest living culture on the planet.

Jason Adler, general manager for New South Wales Aboriginal Affairs spoke with NITV News at the introduction of the bill.

He said this news is “huge” and will see Aboriginal language “enshrined” through law.

“This is the government sending a message that never again [Aboriginal language] would be subject to inappropriate, damaging policy that we saw in the first half of this century and end of last century,” he said.

However, there are also concerns from the state's peak Aboriginal body in getting it right.

Roy Ah- See, NSW Aboriginal Land Council Chair, said we have to be mindful that Aboriginal language is in the ‘ownership’ of Aboriginal people.

“There has to be a balance in how we manage this moving forward, it's good to have legislation but at the forefront of that legislation we have to have self-determination,” he told NITV News.

But for those who have lived through years of being forbidden, by state governments, to speak their mother native tongue this day couldn’t come soon enough.

Uncle Widdy, Wailwan Warrior, was one of the many traditional owners who attended the day’s event.

He said he was unsure what the outcomes would be, but the day had been “very special” to him.

"I've always couldn’t understand why they wouldn't let us speak our own language. So to come here today and actually know that a Bill is going to be passed to give us permission, I can't find words to describe it,” he said.

About 1800 people speak Aboriginal language in New South Wales.

The NSW government will appoint an independent panel of Aboriginal languages experts and establish a range of new language centres.